New Delhi: People’s health group, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan’s (JSA) Mumbai unit has demanded that the registration of the three accused doctors, who drove Dr Payal Tadvi to die by suicide, may be kept in suspension as the High Court had done, till the pending inquiry into a complaint by the dead girl’s mother is complete.
Reacting to revocation of the suspension of licence order of the two accused by the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), the JSA, a national network of health activists, including doctors and others, has written to MMC president, saying that the “MMC did not have any obligation to revoke the suspension when the High Court vacated its suspension order ....”
Payal Tadvi, 26 a medical student, was found dead in her hostel room in BYL Nair Hospital on May 22, 2019. According to a three-page note she left behind she had said it had become “unbearable” for her to carry on with the alleged “torture” meted out to her by three seniors -- Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal.
The three accused were arrested and their licenses were suspended last year after a huge uproar as all the three belonged to the upper caste as opposed to Dr Tadvi, who hailed from the tribal Bhil community. She was reportedly the first woman from her community to study medicine.
The three accused were booked under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, abetment of suicide, destruction of evidence and common intent under the Indian Penal Code.
However, according to an Indian Express report, in March, the MMC “revoked the suspension of the licences of two doctors, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal, registered with the Maharashtra council, pending completion of inquiry against them and the third accused, Hema Ahuja, who is registered in another state.” The MMC cited the Bombay HC’s order in February, “which said that it did not have the jurisdiction to suspend their licences but directed the MMC to take appropriate decision based on the inquiry.”
In the letter, JSA criticised MMC for not waiting for a decision on the complaint filed by Tadvi’s mother, Abeda, about gross violation of code of medical ethics or misconduct, against the three accused doctors.
The JSA has demanded that the inquiry into the complaint filed by Tadvi’s mother be completed in a “credible and time bound manner and at the earliest. ‘
“Indeed, the law also empowers the MMC..... to take suo moto action, more so in this case where the life of a doctor hailing from the most marginalised section of population was cut short by blatant prejudicial behaviour of the accused and reputation of the medical profession at large was at stake,” said the letter.
Read the full letter below:
JAN SWASTHYA ABHIYAN, MUMBAI
Dr. Shivkumar Shankar Utture
Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC)
Dear Dr. Utture ji,
Sub: The obligation of the MMC to uphold the standard of medical ethics and show zero tolerance to the caste, communal and ethnic prejudices and ragging/atrocities based on them among members of the medical profession
Ref: The action and inaction in the case of Dr. Payal Tadvi who was driven to suicide on 22 May 20119 at Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Medical College, Mumbai
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) is a national network of health activists, including doctors and others, working on the health and healthcare across the country. The Mumbai Chapter of the JSA is associated with the campaign for the justice for Dr. Payal Tadvi.
The three doctors -- Bhakti Mehare, Ankita Khandelwal and Hema Ahuja, the doctors senior to Dr. Tadvi, allegedly used caste, communal and ethnics prejudices to harass and eventually drive Dr. Tadvi to suicide. The High Court had ordered suspension of registration of all three accused doctors due to the gravity of their offenses. The MMC never opposed the suspension of their registration by the High court and so it remained in force. However, on February 21, 2020, the High Court vacated the suspension of registration on the ground that the MMC has the authority to do such suspension and conduct inquiry on their conduct in a timely manner.
The MMC did not have any obligation to revoke the suspension when the High Court vacated its suspension order as the MMC has power to affect such suspension. More so when a complaint by the mother of the deceased Dr. Payal Tadvi, about the gross violation of code of medical ethics or misconduct, against the three accused doctors, was already pending for long before the MMC for action. Indeed, the law also empowers the MMC not to wait for any complaint and take suo moto action, more so in this case where the life of a doctor hailing from the most marginalised section of population was cut short by blatant prejudicial behaviour of the accused and reputation of the medical profession at large was at stake.
However, instead of choosing an ethical course of action, the MMC revoked the suspension and has done nothing of significance since Dr. Tadvi’s death over a year back to hold inquiry and take decision.
Such behaviour of the MMC only shows high level of tolerance, bordering on the protection, to the caste, communal and ethnic prejudices, and ragging and atrocities based on them, within the profession and with the society. Such tolerance contravenes the very ethical foundation of the medical profession.
We therefore demand:
1. the registration of the three accused doctors may be kept in suspension as the High court had done,
2. the inquiry into the complaint filed by Dr. Tadvi’s mother for the gross misconduct of the accused that resulted in the death by suicide of Dr. Tadvi, be completed in a credible and time bound manner and at the earliest.
For JSA Avinash Kadam, Brinelle Dsouza and Kamayani BaliMahabal